War of the Rebellion: Serial 126 Page 0752 CORRESPONDENCE,ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

deserter was supposed to reside, the original reports being kept on file. This system has since that time been adhered to.

Considerable difficulty was experienced in procuring the reports from commanding officers, and many had to be notified time and time again before the reports were obtained. Even at this date, despite numerous notifications, some reports are missing, and, as the delinquent regiments have mostly been mustered out, the record of deserters can never be entirely completed.

It was constantly found necessary to urge the provost-marshals to energy in arresting deserters by means of circulars and letters. Until the reward was increased to $30, however, few arrests were made. The reward was a powerful stimulus to exertion on the part of both citizens and special officers, many of which latter elected to relinquish their monthly pay and take the reward instead.

The manner in which the payment of the reward of $5 and expenses incurred was made was intricate. The vouchers necessary to secure the payment of the reward from a disbursing quartermaster were a certificate from a provost-marshal, or officer commanding a military post, that a deserter (identified in the certificate by name, company, and regiment) had been received by them, and that the person apprehending the same (whose name and description were also given) was entitled to the proper reward. Expenses incurred were given in detail, specifying to whom paid and for what expense was necessary. Examining and testing the correctness of the expenses incurred was too complicated a system to work well.

Considerable trouble was experienced in the beginning of 1863 in the issue by State courts of writs of habeas corpus in the case of deserters arrested, provost-marshal in many instances giving the deserters up to the civil authorities, whereby they often escaped punishment. To obviate this difficulty, Solicitor Whiting gave an opinion on the legality of the writ in such cases, which was made public in Circular 36 from this office. In instructs provost-marshal to make due answer to the writ whenever issued, apprising the State court from which it issued that the prisoner was under custody of the United States, whereupon they could proceed no further. If an attempt were made by the State court to control the provost-marshal, he was authorized to resist by force. The language of Chief Justice Taney was quoted in support of this authorization. The answer of the provost-marshal to the writ was to specify that he was provost-marshal, appointed by the President, under authority of an act of Congress; that the prisoner was a deserter, held under the act, and that his production in court would be in violation of his (the provost- marshal's) duties. To this any other material facts were to be added which he might consider necessary. Since the issue of this circular no further cases have occurred.

By General Orders, No. 222, Adjutant-General's Office, July 16, 1863, the reward of $5 was increased to $10 - a decided improvement.

Enrolled and drafted men have frequently sought to evade service by changing residence and absconding, believing that they could not be arrested; and accordingly, in Circular 47 (July 17), the opinion of Mr. Whiting was issued, to the effect that "there is no way or manner in which a person once enrolled can escape his public duties, and, when drafted, the rights of the United States against him are secured, and it is only by performance of his duty to the country that he will escape liability to be treated as a criminal." A notification of draft left at his last place of residence was held to be enough to convict